Raja Ampat – Last Paradise Indonesia
Raja Ampat is the name of a large archipelago of islands at the far west edge of the province of West Papua. Conveniently located near the arrival city of Sorong, Raja Ampat is one of the premier cruising grounds in Indonesia. Well known for it’s natural beauty and rich marine life, Raja Ampat is a cultural melting pot with a long history.
What does Raja Ampat Mean?
Raja Ampat literally means “Four Kings”, raja = king and ampat = 4. The name comes from the mythological tale of the settling of the area. A woman finds seven eggs, 4 of which hatch and become the kings of the 4 largest islands of the area: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, and Misool. The other 3 become a woman, a ghost, and the last never hatches. The girl is banished by her brothers after becoming pregnant and she ends up on an island in Cendrawasih Bay. She then becomes the ancestor of the people who would later migrate to Raja Ampat. The egg that never hatches is still found in Kabui Bay, where its enshrined in a special house and treated as a king.
Raja Ampat is an area of approximately 70,000 square kilometers with over 600 main islands. When adding all of the smaller islands there are over 1500 in total. Although many people think the islands are volcanic, they are actually limestone rock. Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is the end product of ancient reefs. The islands of Raja Ampat are karst limestone, which is a porous and fragile rock that erodes easily and creates stunning landscapes. Due to it’s porous quality, karst rock is at the mercy of water and other natural forces. Most cave systems throughout the world are found in limestone rock and Raja is home to many interesting caves.
As a softer rock, karst landscapes tend to boast beautiful beaches. Raja Ampat is no exception as there are innumerable white sand beaches throughout the area. Many of these beaches are ringed by beautiful cliffs that are home to amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations.
The People of Raja Ampat
There are more than 60,000 people living in Raja Ampat. They come from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. The first people settled in the area between 30 and 60,000 years ago. These are the Melanesian people who also populated Australia, and islands further east such as Vanuatu and Fiji. A second wave of people, the Austronesians/Polynesians, migrated to the region 4000 years ago. This wave of people are mostly coastal dwellers and mixed wit the original inhabitants. This introduced new languages and customs to the area.
The largest number of people in northern Raja Ampat are from the Biak and Numfor region, located approximately 300km to the east. They migrated to the Raja Ampat area mainly in the last 500 years and settled along the coasts as fishermen. The original inhabitants lived more in the interior of the islands until the influence of the new settlers introduced a larger dependence on fishing.
Later settlers in the northern regions came from Halmahera and in the south from Ceram and southern Maluku. These later settlers also introduced modern religion to the area. Although there was a long standing relationship with the Sultanates of Tidore and Ternate, Islam did not take hold in the northern regions of Raja Ampat. In the south however, migrants from Ceram and other areas of Maluku settled in Misool and there are several Muslim villages in that area now. However, the vast majority of people in both Raja Ampat and throughout Papua are Protestant. The Christian influence is a result of a strong Dutch presence in the area during colonial times.
The Fauna and Flora of Raja Ampat
Raja is known worldwide for it’s incredible natural beauty. Not only is the geography visually pleasing, the flora and fauna of the region is incredible. The rich jungle growth and isolation has allowed many species of plants to thrive. The most famous of which are no doubt the beautiful orchids. There are hundreds of species of orchid that can be found in the islands with a variety of appearance and colour. Other fascinating plants include the unique “pitcher plants” which eat insects!
Of course the wildlife is also an incredible attraction to the region. A large number of marsupials are found here including cuscus, sugar gliders, possum, and even tree kangaroos. Birders flock to Raja Ampat in order to find some of the world’s most unique birds. Endemic species such as the Red and the Wilson’s Birds of Paradise are only found in Raja Ampat. Other beautiful birds include the crowned pigeon, cassowary, colorful kingfishers, and 300 more species. Throw in a variety of reptiles, snakes, bats, and an amazing variety of insects and you have a paradise for animal lovers.
Of course it’s not only the terrestrial animals with draw attention. Raja Ampat’s location is at the heart of the Coral Triangle and boasts the largest number of fish species anywhere in the world. With more than 1400 species of fish and 500 species of coral, Raja Ampat is a marine lovers paradise. Whales, dolphins, turtles, and other marine life play an important role in the ecosystem of the area.
Visiting The Last Paradise
With it’s geographic beauty, unique culture, and rich natural life, Raja Ampat has something for every visitor. The advantage of visiting the area on a luxury yacht such as the Samata is the freedom you have to experience your interests. All of our trips are private charters, therefore, we work with you to create the experience you are after. Are you interested in visiting villages and learning more about the people? We are happy to make that happen. Are you more interested in the incredible landscape and rich natural life? We know all of the most beautiful spots to explore. We are more than happy to create the perfect custom itinerary for your visit to Raja aboard the Samata.